Suicide Claims Life of ‘Cocky’ Wounded Veteran Featured in HBO’s ‘Alive Day Memories’
‘We Knew He Had Demons,’ War Veteran’s Mom Says
by Kate Wiltrout
The Virginian-Pilot, April 20, 2012
Jonathan Bartlett, shown above exercising inside a hospital rehab facility, has died. His family confirmed his death on April 17, 2012 was a suicide. (Vicki Cronis-Nohe, The Virginian-Pilot)
Jonathan Bartlett, an Iraq war veteran and double amputee who was featured in numerous Virginian-Pilot stories as he recovered from his injuries, died Tuesday at his home in Chesapeake. He was 27.
Family members said he killed himself.
On Sept. 25, 2004, Bartlett was a 19-year-old Army infantryman at the wheel of a Humvee outside Fallujah when it hit a homemade bomb. He lost one leg in the blast; the other was amputated soon after.
He spent 13 months recovering at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, where he learned to walk on prosthetic legs and amused nurses, therapists and visitors with his salty language and black humor. He liked to wear T-shirts referencing the stumps of his legs. One read: “I was golfing. I found the alligator.” Another admonished: “Tell your children not to stare, or the bogeyman will take their legs, too.”
A graduate of Maury High School, Bartlett returned to Norfolk in 2005 and enrolled at Old Dominion. He eventually moved into a wheelchair-accessible home in Deep Creek purchased with the aid of a veterans organization.
In 2007, Bartlett was one of 10 servicemembers featured in an HBO documentary called “Alive Day Memories: Home from Iraq.”
He graduated in 2011 and got a job with the federal government, working in human resources at Norfolk Naval Station.
Bartlett was outspoken and opinionated, with a flair for the dramatic; he’d regularly post manifestos about politics, religion and government on Facebook, and link to essays and articles that invariably made him mad.
His mother, Esther Bartlett of Norfolk, said she saw him a few times in the past week and Jon seemed his usual cocky self.
“We knew he had demons,” she said. “He brought probably more than a few of them back from Iraq with him. We thought he had at least made some kind of peace with them.”
A friend, Jumaria Copeland, said Bartlett helped her get through tough times, whether she was struggling emotionally or financially.
“I remember being so flat broke, and he would hand me a $20. He’d say, ‘I know it’s not much, but it will put gas in your tank.’ ”
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Watch video of Jonathan Bartlett speak about life after war